In Issue 23:

What To Do With An Upsidedown Cactus
By Sue Haffner Fresno C&S Cactus Corner News

How Smart Are Plants - Really?
By Sue Haffner Fresno C&S Cactus Corner News

Can Water Drops Burn Your Plants?
By Sue Haffner Fresno C&S Cactus Corner News

A Brief History Of The Genus Lithops And Lithops Turbiniformis (Haw.) N.E.Brown
By Chuck Staples Mid-Iowa C&S

Seed Production -- Part 3: Aloaceae Aloe, Gasteria, And Haworthia
Article And Pictures By Thomas Schwink Mid-Iowa C&S

Finding The Perfect Pot
By Stephen Cooley - Bakersfield C&Ss - The Cactus Patch

The Quest For The Crest
By Stephen Cooley - Bakersfield C&Ss - The Cactus Patch

Le Jardin Exotic de Monaco.
By Gary Barrett - Austin C&S - The Cacto-Files

Lighting for Succulent Plants
By Jerry Addington Cascade C&S The Point


What To Do With An Upsidedown Cactus
By Sue Haffner Fresno

Ever notice that, every once in a while, a cactus will decide to ``lay down on the job?'' It just will not stay upright, no matter what you do. You can prop it up, of course, but maybe you should just let it do what it wants to do.

There are species of cacti that are naturally pendant. Mammillaria matudae is one plant that wants to lean, and then hang. Small plants are neat and cylindrical, but eventually they will lean over to lie on whatever they're next to. Native to the states of Mexico and Guerrero, M. matudae is an attractive plant, with yellowish, translucent spines and red-purple flowers.

An article in the December 2001 issue of the British cactus & succulent journal, written by John Watmough, discusses this issue and provides an interesting method of handling pendant cacti. He suspends the plant out of the bottom of the pot so that it grows upside down. The plant in the photo accompanying the article was growing and blooming vigorously and had a number of offsets.

You need to use a plastic pot strong enough to remain rigid once the bottom is cut out. Make sure that it has holes around the rim so that it can be suspended with wires or some other type of plant hanger.

Watmough recommends then taking a plastic plant saucer exactly the right size to fit snugly inside the bottom of the pot. Cut it across the diameter into two matching halves, then cut out enough from each half so that when the two halves are fitted back together they can form a collar around the neck of the plant.

Next, insert the top of the plant through the pot and out the hole at the bottom, making sure that the collar remains firmly in place. (Getting help from another pair of hands is called for.) The plant will now hang upside-down supported by its own rootball. Hang up the pot and fill it with potting mix. The author recommends laying another plant saucer over the top of the pot, affording some protection from overheating and too-rapid drying. Remember that all hanging plants are prone to rapid drying, especially in our climate.

The Huntington Conservatory has a plant growing this way, though I can't recall what species it is. The technique would probably work with other pendant plants.


How Smart Are Plants - Really?
By Sue Haffner - Fresno C&S

It is easy to dismiss plants as a lower form of life even though they compose 99% of the earth's biomass. Plants don't move much, are pretty quiet, and certainly do not think - we think! It seems, though, that the old phrase ``dumb as a stump'' is very far off the mark. How far off we don't know because we are just now realizing how complex plant behavior really is.

Two recent articles in the journal Nature outline new discoveries about plants (``Mindless Mastery'', Feb. 21, 2002; ``How Plants Fight Dirty'', March 21, 2002).

Humans possess five major senses, but plants continuously monitor 15 different environmental variables, from sunlight to the alighting of a herbivorous insect. These signals from the plant's sensors are fed into a remarkably diverse communications system comprising chemicals (proteins, hormones, nucleic acids, etc.), electrical signals, and mechanical information. Every plant processes a prodigious amount of information - how and where this is done we don't know. We do know, though, that incoming information is acted upon in ways that increase the fitness of the plant. If intelligence is defined as adaptable behavior leading to increased survivability, then plants are intelligent.

Take the dodder, a parasitic plant, as an example. It reaches out for a host and upon contact assesses its exploitability within an hour or two with its sensors. If the first potential host is inadequate, it makes a ``conscious'' decision to move on to another prey. When a suitable host is found, the dodder coils around, deploys the appropriate number of suckers, and starts to siphon off the host's resources.

Plants even warn their neighbors of herbivore attacks by releasing volatile chemicals and thereby allowing early construction of chemical defenses. It has also been observed that in some contacts with herbivorous insects the attacked plant sends out specific volatile signals that attract the proper species of parasite that will dispatch the insect attacker.

Where are these plant decisions made and where do the 15 streams of sensor data end up? Untold numbers of bytes must be processed somewhere but we know of no plant central-processing-unit. We suppose that plant brains are of a distributed nature and employ chemical and electrical ``chips''. In reality, we can only guess because we have long ignored the information-processing aspects of this kingdom of life. A kingdom, which, lest we forget, powers all other life - except for a few bacteria that can tap geochemical energy sources.

(Based on a note in Science frontiers, no. 141.)


Can Water Drops Burn Your Plants?
By Sue Haffner - Fresno C & S

Can water drops left on your plants in direct sunlight burn the plants? You sometimes hear people say this, or even read it in books. The water supposedly acts as a magnifying glass, focusing sunlight into a damaging ray that will burn plant tissue. A well-meaning comment awhile back on an online discussion list led to a heated debate on the subject, and inspired this interesting contribution from Mark Dimmit, nurseryman and Adenium hybridizer:

``It is a MYTH that watering in the day can burn plants. To demonstrate this, an experiment was recently performed in Phoenix, Arizona (by the Ag Extension Office, I think) on an afternoon when the temperature was in excess of 110 F. A variety of plants were watered overhead; not one was burned. Most of us who live in the desert already know this from experience. When I find a plant that is dry, I water it immediately regardless of time of day. Some people here spray their more heat-sensitive plants in midday to cool them off. I've done it, but I can't say I notice any improvement in the plants (it makes me feel better!)

However, there are other reasons for not watering during the heat of the day. One is that the hot soil dries out much faster; more water is lost to evaporation and roots have less time to absorb water before the soil dries. Watering during the evening cools by evaporation and increases the day-night temperature differential which is important to CAM plants. Don't know if it's enough to help, though. On the other hand, watering at night in humid weather encourages disease. It's important that the plants dry off in a couple of hours so fungus spores can't sprout and invade.''


A brief history of the genus Lithops and Lithops turbiniformis (Haw.) N.E.Brown
by Chuck Staples - Mid -Iowa C&S

The genus Lithops is part of the family Aizoaceae and of the subfamily Ruschioideae, one of 5 such subfamilies of the family Aizoaceae.

The genus name Lithops was first described by Nicholas Edward Brown (1849-1934) in 1922. He was a herbarium botanist and taxonomist in England. The Lithops name comes from the Greek lithos which means `stone' and ops which means `appearance' or `a face`. They look like ``Living Stones'', a common name we like to use for them. (The word Lithops is used in both singular and plural form.)

Each Lithops has one pair of leaves with a fissure in between where a solitary flower is produced as shown in this picture from the 1946 book ``Lithops`` by Gert Cornelius Nel (1885-1950). In habitat the tops of the leaves are either at ground level often wedged between stones or slightly buried, especially during a dry period. The tops of the leaves appear to be either flat or somewhat raised and more or less rough looking as if cut off short with a translucent window or window-like spots. The size across the two leaves at the apex is generally 3/4'' to 1 1/2'' in diameter. It's a mimicry plant in habitat with surrounding stones of similar size and shape until it flowers. The flower color varies from yellow to white to bronze to pink.

The natural habitat of Lithops is in the dry regions of southern Africa - from the Cape and Transvaal Province regions of the Republic of South Africa into much of the western coast and central parts of Namibia.

The Aizoaceae family is well represented by a great variety of plants (mostly leaf succulents) in the drier parts of South Africa and Namibia, and are referred to in general as ``vygies'', an African name which pertains to their fig-like young fruits. These ``vygies'' were formerly grouped together under the genus name `Mesembryanthemum' described in 1753 by Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1777), the father of our binomial system of naming plants. (The word `Mesembryanthemum' was first used in 1689 by Jacob Breyne (1637-1697), a Polish naturalist and artist with an interest in botany.)

An Englishman, William John Burchell (1781-1863), was the first to bring to the scientific world the discovery of a Lithops in 1811; found near the town of Pierska in the northern Cape Province of South Africa. He mentioned in his travel log that he was surprised when he picked up what looked like an unusual pebble and found it to be a plant instead. In color and appearance it looked like the stones between which it was growing. He recognized it as a new species of the large tribe Mesembryanthemum. It is believed that he collected this unusual plant but a herbarium specimen has never been found.

W. J. Burchell was an ethnographer, geologist, meteorologist, cartographer, botanist, zoologist and artist who explored and collected plants in South Africa from 1811 to 1815. He sent over 40,000 botanical specimens and some 500 drawings to England during this time.

W. J. Burchell gave this new, unusually small, ground level succulent plant the name Mesembryanthemum turbiniforme and it was published in the first of two volumes of his book ``Travels in the Interior of Southern Africa'' in 1822. However, unknown to Burchell at the time, an English gardener by the name of Adrian Hardy Haworth (1768-1833) preceded Burchell in adopting the same name to describe the plant in 1821, using Burchell's 1812 drawing of the plant as the basis for his description. Therefore, Haworth is credited with the technical naming of this plant.

It took almost a century before Mesembryanthemum turbiniforme and other like plants were transferred into a genus of their own by N. E. Brown in 1922 who gave this plant the name Lithops turbiniformis. It appears that due to the researches of Brown in England and Martin Heinrich Gustav Schwantes (1881-1960) in Germany in the 1920s, the genus Mesembryanthemum was split up into about 140 different genera, including the genus Lithops.

Without a herbarium specimen and with only W. J. Burchell's drawing of the plant there have been a number of disagreements over the years by various taxonomists concerning this plant. There was a need to relocate this plant again in habitat.

A number of explorers over the years have looked for Lithops turbiniformis in habitat using Burchell's original location instructions. According to N. E. Brown it appears that Illtyd Buller Pole Evans (1879-1968) may have come closest to finding a like plant near the town of Pierska in 1918. However, there are taxonomists that disagree that what Pole Evans found was the same plant in Burchell's drawing in 1812. The mystery continues to this day.

Some taxonomists have pushed the species `turbiniformis' into synonymy under Lithops hookeri.

It might be helpful for you to know that the naming of plants is governed by rules of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) consisting of at least a generic (genus) name, Mesembryanthemum, and a specific epithet (species) name, e.g., turbiniforme. This becomes the basic binomial name which is highlighted in italics, heavy type and/or underlined, followed by the authors name (or abbreviated name) in normal Roman type, e.g.,

Mesembryanthemum turbiniforme Haw.

One of the rules set out by C. Linnaeus is to keep the `species' as the basic unit of classification. So, when it was decided by N. E. Brown to split out a group of plants from the genus Mesembryanthemum he kept the basic species name by only changing the generic name to:

Lithops turbiniformis (Haw.) N.E.Brown

The original author's name is shown in parenthesis with the change by current author following.

Many books will give you the current plant name only without the original name and will show it in this case as:

Lithops turbiniformis (Haw.) N.E.Brown

The more technical books will give you both the current and original names along with the dates each was described by the authors and, in abbreviated form, what published periodical each was described in.

Behind genus and species of some plants taxonomists may tack on `subspecies', `variety' and/or `forma', in situations where a plant is similar to the `species' with maybe a color or pattern difference, but not enough of a difference to put the plant in a higher rank of a separate `species`.

For example, in D. T. Cole's book the name for one plant is:

Lithops julii subsp. fulleri var. brunnea De Boer 1962.

In this example Hindrick Wijbrand de Boer (1885-1970) described the variety `brunnea', a Latin name meaning `brown', in 1962. If you were interested in who described the species `julii' and/or the subspecies `fulleri' you would need to look it up in Cole's book for each particular plant. It is enough in this article to tell you that the species `julii' was named for Julius Derenberg (1873-1928) from Hamburg, Germany, by another German, Moritz Kurt Dinter (1868-1945) in 1924. The subspecies `fulleri' was discovered by Ernest Russell Fuller (?-?) in about 1926 and named for him by N. E. Brown in 1927.

Maybe this will give you a better idea what you are seeing besides plant pictures in books.


Cole, Desmond T. (1988): Lithops, Flowering Stones.

Nel, B.C. (1946): Lithops.

Herre, H. (1979): The Genera of the Mesembryanthemaceae.

Jaarsveld, E.J. van & Villiers Pienaar, U. de (2000): Vygies, Gems of the Veld.

Hartmann, Heidrun E.K., Editor (2001): Aizoaceae F-Z (Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants).

Staples, Charles J. (not published): A Historical Record of Authors of Cactus & Succulent ``Plant Names'' & ``Books'' For The Amateur Hobbyist.


Seed Production -- Part 3: Aloaceae
Aloe, Gasteria, And Haworthia
Article And Pictures By Thomas Schwink - Mid Iowa C&S

The genera aloe, gasteria, and haworthia are the most popular succulent plants of the family aloaceae. I am not interested in producing hybrids, but want to mention that there are a number of hybrids of these plants, including some intergeneric ones. I am as careful as I can be to avoid crossing different species.

Many different tools have been used for hand pollination of these plants. I use a horsehair for haworthias and small brushes for aloes and gasterias. Many people use small brushes for all 3 genera. Other tools that can be and are used include fishing line, cat whiskers, and even match sticks. Although flowers of most of these plants have both male and female parts, they are usually not self fertile, and thus need to be pollinated with pollen from a genetically different plant, not a clone.

To keep from hybridizing, I throw the horsehair away when pollination of the desired haworthia plants is completed, using a new horsehair when I want to pollinate other plants or even the same plants at a later date. With the brushes that I use for the aloes and gasterias, I keep each brush that I am using with (not inside) an envelope on which is written the name of the plants that I am pollinating with that brush. The flowers do not all open at the same time, of course, but open over a period of time starting with those that are closest on the flowering stem and progressing upwards. Often, also, the anthers ripen before the stigmas and thus pollen from younger flowers can be more effective when transferred to flowers that are somewhat older. Pollination is much easier than with adeniums and pachypodiums, since the anthers and stigmas of these plants (aloes, gasterias, haworthias) are usually plainly visible rather than being hidden deep in the flowers.

After I have completed transfer of the pollen between all the flowers that I want to or can, which may take place over a period of several weeks, I seal the brush inside its labeled envelope and store it until I want to pollinate plants of the same species again. Then I open the envelope, take out the brush, label a new envelope (since the old one cannot be easily resealed), and repeat what I did previously with the same brush.

June, 2001
December, 2001
May, 2002


Finding The Perfect Pot
by Stephen Cooley - Bakersfield C&SS - The Cactus Patch

I personally have never had a problem finding the perfect pot. I have lots of them. They're all sitting empty in the backyard. I've even had to build storage shelves to hold them all. My problem has always been in the filling of the pots. I have tried my best to stage my plants correctly but I'm never really satisfied with the results. Recently, while going through my pots and trying (in vain) to imagine which plant I could stage in each, I found that one had already been filled. It seems my enthusiasm has spread and infected a pair of Doves.

These Doves (in an obvious attempt to show me up) have chosen a blue bonsai pot in which they have placed two flawlessly grown white eggs. These eggs are perfectly set off by a top dressing of dry grass along with two clay pots set off to the side just for ornament. It is a striking display, one that has captured the attention of myself and my family.

And the enthusiasm is still spreading -- it seems that the cats have become interested as well.


The Quest for the Crest
By Stephen Cooley - Bakersfield C&SS - The Cactus Patch

A year ago, in March 2001, Maynard Moe and I went out on our annual trip to the deserts of California. We made a change of plans and, since we were in the neighborhood, went to Tucson, instead. After visits to the Sonoran Desert Museum, Living Stones Nursery, and Miles to Go Nursery we headed back towards California via Organ Pipe National Park. We took in our fill of Arizona and departed. Arriving at our last camp in the Chuckwalla Mountains we hiked out over the washes and hills. At one point, while carefully navigating our way through a thicket of Teddy Bear Cholla (Opuntia bigelovii) we noticed a peculiar looking barrel cactus up the hill. Turning uphill, we discovered a crested Ferocactus cylindraceus! After we recovered from the giddy enthusiasm that often overwhelms cactophiles when they see something new, Maynard dutifully took pictures of the specimen and we headed back to camp. The next morning as we prepared to leave, we found that the car had a flat tire. We fixed it just in time to discover the other flat tire. From here on, the story gets too gruesome to tell, so I'll just say that we happened to arrive home very late that night and that none of the pictures came out.

Ferocactus cylindraceus is the most common of the two Ferocactus in California (the other is F. viridescens from San Diego County). Those who went on one of the New York Mountains field trips saw splendid specimens of the variety lecontei. In the desert, Ferocactus cylindraceus is a single stemmed barrel, which helps identify it from Echinocactus polycephalus, that usually is in clumps and has wool at the crown. Of the thousands of these that I have seen, I have never seen one that was crested.

This year as Maynard and I trekked out into the desert once again, we made it a point to relocate the crested cactus. We arrived at 'Two Flats Camp', checked the tires, and headed off in the direction we remembered from the previous year. There it was, protected by an army of cholla, the 9-headed barrel cactus. This time the pictures made it home, as did we, with our only delay being a date shake at Hadley's.

[The Crest]

To see more pictures (in color!) go to:


Le Jardin Exotic de Monaco.
By Gary Barrett - Austin C&S - The Cacto-Files

Le Jardin Exotic is on par with the Huntington Library as the best outdoor cactus and succulent garden to which I have ever been. The garden was started by Prince Albert I, more than 200 years ago, the earliest cactus having been imported from the Americas in the 1500's. The garden has been literally carved into the side of a steep mountain, right at the Mediterranean border with France. Because the garden is so old, and the weather perfect for most succulents, it is a great opportunity to see a broad range of plants at their best. Some of the 16th century imported specimens were already mature, so lots of the plants are ancient. Think big cactus. Of course Saguaros and Cereus are present, but so are the tree forms of Euphorbias that we see as only as columnar in Austin. Golden barrels are huge, much bigger than the monsters I have seen in other places. From the entry plaza, the plants are well marked, but as one travels the non-liner maze, there are fewer signs - it is apparently the case that you only get one chance to learn the name of your new favorite cactus. Tour buses disgorge a lot of people, but most choose not to be mountain goats and don't go far, so the garden is rarely crowded; the bus folks who do attempt the journey appear to wish they had brought the nitro-pills.

The entrance ticket to the garden (about $6, or 7 euros), includes a guided trip through the caves, stalactites and all. At some point the Prince seems to have become more interested in the human bones of early cave dwellers in Monaco than the succulents, so also included in the price of admission is the museum which purports the Monacon's as the origins of Europe. It takes about three hours to see the caves, garden, and museum. Across the street from the garden is a succulent research center, with a number of greenhouses that are packed with cactus. I think you have to beg for admission to this place so, with only passable French, I could only peer through the fence.

While Le Jardin Exotic de Monaco may lack the excitement of seeing E. abedelkuri in situ, it has an abundance of cactus and succulents that are huge, in perfect condition, generally a lot is in bloom (even if some are in insignificant inflorences), and includes a great view of rich-people Monaco. Park your car free along the street with the Ferraris and take the bus to the palace and casino. The biggest crowds are around Princess Grace's resting place in the cathedral, but you will be most impressed with the cactus-gone-wild in the garden. In addition to Monaco, nearby is another Rothschild's place (Villa Ephrussi), which has a small but mature cactus garden (better speak some French or you will never find it). If you find yourself in the south of France, take the time to take see Le Jardin Exotic.


Lighting for Succulent Plants
by Jerry Addington - Cascade C&S The Point

By the nature of their adaptation to arid sun drenched lands, succulents grown under artificial light need lots of it. A general rule that works for most succulents is 30-60 watts of fluorescent, compact fluorescent, or metal halide lighting per square foot of plants, when most of the available light is from artificial sources. If you are supplementing light from a decent window, half that amount should suffice. By a decent window, I mean one where some direct sunlight is on the plants (when available) several hours a day. You will notice I did not mention incandescent or halide lighting. We do not recommend either of these for succulent or other highlight plants, as their light to heat ratio is way to low.

Cacti are generally at the highest range of watts per square foot and leafy caudicifoms, like pachypodiums and Madagascar euphorbias, are at the lower end. Cacti are especially tough as they have a tendency to pin head even under the strongest artificial light. To help control weak, soft growth, use cool color, full spectrum fluorescent lights and halides lights. Keep the temperature under control. This is also very important with fast growing leafy succulents, like echevrias, that can lose normal configuration so quickly. It is not just a lower light level that causes stretching - high temperatures play a role also.

Compact fluorescent lights are much improved over the past few years and full spectrum 23 and 26-watt models with simple clamping reflector fixtures are really nice for a small area. There is a 65-watt package we find very useful for succulents, orchids and carnivorous plants. Full spectrum florescent tubes are especially good for shelves and racks of plants where the configuration is long and narrow. For large areas, metal halide lights are the most cost effective. They are now available in wattages of 100 to 1,000. They are available in full spectrum or cool color. A 1,000-watt halide puts out as much light as 36 four foot fluorescent tubes and is suitable for areas of four by four foot up to six by six foot according to particular light demands. Halide lights good for supplementary greenhouse lighting. Small horizontal fixtures are better.

Fluorescent tubes should be kept from four to six inches above your plants, compact florescent lights from six to ten inches, and halide lights from one to three feet depending upon wattage and reflector design. Also, fluorescent lights are the best light source for starting succulent plants from seeds.

Succulent plants, especially cacti, may never grow quite as robustly under artificial light, but most can be kept in decent configuration. You can keep an amazing number of plants this way, especially if you get rid of your furniture. The expense of the electricity will mostly just come off your heating bill. Remember, it is better to add more light than curse the darkness.